CINCINNATI – If you are one of those who didn’t like the Komets’ decision to go without an NHL affiliation this season, you won’t like reading this: The Cincinnati Cyclones are stocked with NHL prospects.
The Cyclones have seven players under NHL contracts and five others on contracts with teams from the American Hockey League, one tier above the ECHL.
It’s huge having those guys, said forward Dan Eves, whose Cyclones defeated the Komets 5-2 at U.S. Bank Arena on Saturday to even the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinals at one game apiece.
The Cyclones were fortified late in the season by their parent clubs, who like prospects to get valuable playoff experience. Florida Panthers prospects Wade Megan and Logan Shaw were sent to Cincinnati on April 14, three days before the postseason began, and Megan has a goal in this series.
Especially the first game (after they were sent here), it was amazing watching Megan, Shaw and (Josh) Shalla playing together. The two of them, Megan and Shaw, spent the majority of the year up in San Antonio and they’re really skilled forwards, Eves said. They battle really hard. Any time you get guys like that, it’s really going to help.
Game 3 is Thursday at Memorial Coliseum.
The Panthers also have placed Jonathan Hazen and Josh McFadden in Cincinnati, while the Nashville Predators sent Shalla, Zach Budish and Taylor Aronson to the Cyclones. Their AHL-contracted players are Byron Froese, who is second in the ECHL with 10 playoff points, Trevor Lewis, Barry Almeida, and goalies Rob Madore and Magnus Hellberg
The downside of having players sent down is that it can affect team chemistry.
Those guys have been here long enough (at times this season) that they knew the core group of guys here and they’re good guys in the room and away from the rink too, Eves said. All the guys we got back (from higher levels), they’re really just a good group of guys.
After spending their first season in the ECHL affiliated with the NHL’s Anaheim Ducks and the AHL’s Norfolk Admirals, the Komets opted to join Colorado and Las Vegas as the only independent members of the 21-team ECHL. Colorado and Las Vegas were eliminated in the first round.
The Komets have only one player under an NHL contract – forward Shawn Szydlowski, who has one goal in the series – and his contract with the Buffalo Sabres expires this summer.
Earlier this season, the Komets had goalie Andrey Makarov, another Sabres prospect, and forward Tristan King, who asked to be reassigned by the Dallas Stars. Makarov was with Rochester of the AHL, which was eliminated from the playoffs Sunday, after he went 2-3 with a 3.01 goals-against average and a .907 save percentage. He could rejoin the Komets.
Scott Fleming, Jordon Southorn and Jace Coyle were the only other Fort Wayne players called up this season.
It’s uncommon for an independent team to win an ECHL championship – Atlantic City won it in 2003 and Las Vegas made it to the 2012 finals – but the Komets would like to buck the trend.
We took one here with the (2-1 win Thursday), which was a big positive for us over the weekend, Komets defenseman Simon Danis-Pepin said.
We obviously wanted to come out with more intensity (in Game 2) but it’s good to go home. We just have to regroup and learn from what we did in the loss. We need to get the pucks deep and worry about winning the battles. It’s nice to have a couple days off to get our bodies back to 100 percent, but we’ve got to get back to what our team does well in order to win the next couple of games.